It’s the first day of the 150th year since Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was first published – a favorite novel of mine, so I was excited to see the new series which aired just after Christmas. Here are my thoughts on the latest film iteration.
Things I loved…
The real world of the Alcotts
I liked the fact that this adaptation didn’t shy away from the “behind the scenes” of the novel: civil war, poverty, illness, death, money. Aspects of the Alcotts’ real history and relations were given prominence. Financial difficulties; the ramifications of war; the risk in compassion for the sick and the poor.
John Brooke is the hero
John’s story arc was prominent in this version. We see his intelligence, diligence, bravery, kindness, and passion. I felt this was honoring of John Pratt, on whom he is based, and whom Louisa May Alcott held in high regard. John Brooke is given justice as the knightly man that he is.
Aunt March – great fun!
There’s just a bit of cheek in the Aunt March in the novel that shines through nicely in this series – she’s serious, of course, and everything must be done her way, of course, but there is also a whiff of the scandalous about her, a whiff of the daring, of doing things a bit off kilter sometimes…
The tension over the book
It’s that pivotal confrontation in the novel between Jo and Amy, and it’s given plenty of tension and screen time that had me on the edge and feeling the horror, the loss, the betrayal…just about all the things that attended my reading that part for the first time.
The lake sequence
No, I’m not confusing this with Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice ;). This connects with my first point about how John is given more air time compared to other adaptations, but I just thoroughly enjoyed the whole section on the lake and wish it had been longer!
Fun in the snow
I loved the scenes in which the sisters played in the snow, made snow men, snow angels, sang songs…Such beautiful pictures of fun with family and friends that were a joy to watch.
Professor Bhaer is authentically appealing
If I hadn’t read Little Women and had simply seen this adaptation, I’d be Team Bhaer all the way. He’s depicted as learned, compassionate, generous, humble, romantic, with plenty of heart and humor.
Things I wish had been there…
Theology more in line with the novel
I enjoyed seeing more of Beth, the deep affection between herself and Jo, and all Jo had done for her. The adaptation has Beth and Jo saying things about God they don’t actually say in the novel, and omits things they did say. I would have also liked to have seen some of Marmee’s speeches to her daughters.
The character growth of Amy and Laurie
The novels Little Women and Good Wives have Amy and Laurie undergoing changes in character between the beginning and end of the narrative, which weren’t apparent in this adaptation. I was left with the impression they were older and richer, yet no more mature than at the beginning.
The missing scenes of Jo and Laurie
As a fan of Jo and Laurie’s friendship, this was the thing I missed most. Several scenes weren’t shown, and some scenes altered, which changed their dynamic significantly from the novel. It was a lot more querulous (and dare I say less fun?), and I kept squirming thinking, “That didn’t happen in the book…”
Favorite quotes from the series
Marmee: “Sometimes we simply have to do the bravest thing.”
Professor Bhaer: “It pains me to see a child earn their bread.”
Jo: “I shouldn’t have to explain how much a sister can matter.”